Grading Early Free Agency

Classic move by the NHL here. Just when you began to forget about them and move into full summer mode, they send you that theoretical midnight text, “hey, what are you doing?” Just can’t shake them, it’s like you know you shouldn’t, but you do it anyway. Typical high school relationship stuff.

After Auston Matthews was drafted first overall by the Maple Leafs, the wheels on the wagon just flew off.

Names such as Datsyuk, Sekera, Anderson, Eller, Shaw, Elliot, Kulikov, Bennet and Chiasson all were moved either during or just after the draft.

If you believe in the ‘hockey gods’ that watch over the game to maintain its legitimacy, then they decided to remind you that they are still in charge. June 29th saw two blockbuster trades go down.

Peter Chiarelli confirmed many people’s beliefs that he despises the 2010 NHL draft when he sent the former number one overall pick in Taylor Hall to New Jersey for Adam Larson. Three years after trading the 2010 second overall pick, Tyler Seguin to Dallas.

Honestly, how badly do you dislike someone to trade them to New Jersey. Not a knock at the Devils as much as it is the location itself. The city is an armpit in its own right. On top of that, Adam Larson is a former fourth overall pick. But personally, I don’t believe as of right now he fills that role of being a number one defensemen. What he is however is an excellent complimentary player to an established number one guy. Which Edmonton doesn’t even pretend to already have. Jersey, you made out like a bandit in this deal. Hall is nearly a point per game player who works his tail off for the team he represents. I like what’s brewing in Jersey folks.

Well, aside from the city itself.

Ask anyone who knows me on a personal level. There are few things that make my jaw drop. Montreal, you did just that.

PK Subban was traded to Nashville for Shea Weber. Player for player deals are an absolute rarity in the modern day NHL and in one day we had two, banana land stuff right there.

Montreal getting all hot and bothered because PK was marketing himself to be hockey’s most polarizing personality without inviting them in the party. I remember this type of tomfoolery going down on the playground in elementary school.

Montreal faithful its alright, it’s not like you guys have a history of doing stuff like this! Remember when your franchise traded Patrick Roy to Colorado because he told their coach to eat sand? From there, Roy would lead Colorado to two Stanley Cups. Fool me once shame on you fool me twice… yeah, way to go Montreal.

Nashville robbed Montreal blind, like you read about.

Remember being a kid, completely oblivious to the world around you? “Why is the sky blue? Why are fire trucks red?” It’s a lot different from todays perspective of, “Is there any money left in my bank account?” Or carefully writing out that email to your professor detailing why you skipped her class again because you simply wanted to sleep.

So when free agency officially opened last Friday at noon, hundreds of deals magically just dropped from the sky in thirty minutes. It was hard to play dumb by blaming coincidence. Tampering is a loosely defined word, clearly.

That being said, nine signings in particular struck me for various reasons. Allow me to quickly grade and offer my unique and unwanted opinion on all of them.

Eric Stall-Minnesota: C

So apparently people are still convinced Eric Stall can put up big boy numbers on a team desperate for secondary scoring. Yeah, keep searching. Stall has noticeably struggled to find the back of the net ever since two major injuries made him half the player he use to be. New York hoped he was the cog missing in their championship machine and proved that by paying a heavy price to acquire him from Carolina. The debt wasn’t repaid as Stall recorded a meager 6 points in 20 games with the Rangers. I expect that lack of day to day production to continue.

Alexander Radulov-Montreal: B

Remember this guy? Last seen with Nashville, Alexander Radulov is that typical Russian. Doesn’t give a rats ass about what you say or tell him to do. Alex walks to the beat of his own drum. He also hightailed it back to the KHL after Barry Trotz had the audacity to sit him in the playoffs after violating curfew. Searching for that marque scoring wing to compliment Max Pacioretty? Bring back this booze bag to further rip apart that fragile Canadiens locker room.

Andrew Ladd- Islanders: A

I hate how this is my first ‘A’ grade. Talk about a guy who found his stride in one city, then was yanked out of that and placed in a pressure situation to which he underperformed. In case I didn’t perfectly just describe the move from Winnipeg to Chicago, that’s what I was trying to do. Ladd was the guy in Winnipeg. He scored a lot, meshed well with fans and was their captain. Ignoring all of that, Ladd is a streaky player who found comfort in Winnipeg which is why I graded this an ‘A’. Nobody can possibly suck playing alongside John Tavares though, right?

Loui Eriksson- Vancouver Canucks: B-

Loui, Loui, Loui you Swedish sensation. You never ever tickled Tyler Seguin levels of offense in Boston but you were marketed to that fan base as being, “just as good, we promise!” Now you can team up with the Sedin brothers and knit or play go fish on off days.

David Backes- Boston Bruins: B-

Oh, we need a puck moving defensemen? Let me just sign this 32 year old center to a huge contract. Wait? What do you mean we already have two all world centers on the roster?That’s my impression of Don Sweeney when he announced to everyone that they signed David Backes. While he fits the bill of strong and powerful players that Boston adores, his play has dipped recently and his age is the number one cause. Still need that defensemen though.

Kyle Okposo- Buffalo Sabres: A+

Can’t say enough good things about Okposo. Now he gets to play with Eichel and Evander Kane? People, Buffalo sports aren’t nearly as pathetic as they were this time last week! Stanley Cup? Don’t get ahead of yourself Buffalo, you’re still after all… you.

Frans Nielsen- Red Wings: B

What we have here is a failure to keep a hall of fame center under contract. Out goes Pavel, in comes Nielsen. Make no mistake NOBODY is Pavel Datsyuk besides the man himself. So Wing Nation, you’ll have to settle for this guy for seven years which probably isn’t such a bad idea considering Zetterberg is about to realize why Pavel left.

Milan Lucic- Edmonton Oilers: A-

Over/under three weeks. That’s the amount of time Vegas has Peter Chiarelli and Lucic sexting one another over a possible contract. Whatever Chiarelli was selling to Lucic it worked. Not too shabby when you’re about to make 42 million dollars over the next seven years and all you’re good for is the occasional back door tip in goal and reducing faces to play-doh.

James Reimer-Florida Panthers: A++

Yeah, its the same guy who blew the game seven lead I get it, I get it. But this is why it all makes sense. Bobby Lou isn’t getting any younger so the need for a reliable backup to be groomed back to a starter is now. Reimer, since leaving that toxic pit named Toronto, has flourished in his role as a backup goalie. With Florida making a ton of good hockey moves this off season, Reimer’s deal can be chalked up as huge success for Florida. They’ll be back in the playoffs for sure and in the short coming will be battling for their 2nd straight division title. While Reimer probably shouldn’t be considered a ‘young gun’ anymore he’s at the ripe age for a goaltender. Not too old. Not too young. For the record, ‘A++’ grades do exist because in first grade I got one for being the only kid in class not to color outside the lines.

What is awesome about all of this is, A) how none of my predictions will likely hold up which will make for some good laughs this time next year and B) that we don’t have a coward like Kevin Durant hitch hiking on the Warriors obvious return to the NBA Finals. That’d be like Stamkos throwing a serious knuckle curve and signing with Pittsburgh. It does the league zero good and makes you look like an ass hat.

Regardless, there’s only 96 days until the NHL is back, which means 96 pointless days until life regains its true meaning.

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